New Clause 88 — Referendum on voting systems

Part of Bill Presented — Climate Change (Sectoral Targets) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 9th February 2010.

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Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 5:45 pm, 9th February 2010

I will in a second.

It was 100 years ago this year that a royal commission unanimously recommended the adoption of the alternative vote. However, the recommendation became caught up in the constitutional crisis when the unelected Conservative majority in the House of Lords decided to disrupt Lloyd George's excellent "People's Budget".

It has been said that we should not spend a one-off £80 million at a time of economic crisis. However, the country faced a profound existential crisis in 1917 when the first world war was going badly. At that time the Government sensibly decided that they needed to look to the future, and recommended a change in the system through a Speaker's Conference-which, I remind the Committee, Winston Churchill supported as a Liberal. As a consequence of those proposals, the alternative vote was put before the House. [Interruption.] A Conservative Member mentions the Speaker's Conference, but what it recommended was different from what the House decided, and, in the end, it is the House that decides. Again, however, thanks to the built-in Conservative majority in the other place, this House's decision to go for the alternative vote was overturned, and instead the other place went not for first past the post, but for a system of proportional representation, and as a result the Bill fell.

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